Pros: Same hot sex Leigh’s fans love
Cons: Temper tantrum-prone annoying leads and hand-wavy “SF” plot
Rating: 2 out of 5
Review copy (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: 8/4/2009.
While I enjoy Lora Leigh’s Breed novels, some of them are better than others. Bengal’s Heart is my least favorite so far, and if it had been the first I’d read, I might not have continued.
Lora Leigh’s “Breed” novels are all about genetically-engineered crossbreeds between various predatory animals (big cats, wolves, coyotes) and people. They’re hunted, tortured, experimented on, and slaughtered by the vicious group of scientists that created them: the Genetics Council. Since the series is also a romance & erotica set, it delves into the mysterious “heat” that binds genetically-compatible mates together, as well as issues of fertility.
In case the science fiction sound of the plot appeals to you, you should know that it’s what’s called “science fantasy,” not hard SF by any means. It’s very hand-wavy and clearly there simply as a means to move the plot forward and shape the characters. Whether this is a positive or a negative is almost entirely dependent on the individual reader’s preferences. I found this particular installment of the series to be less fulfilling than most in terms of making pseudo-scientific sense, but if you’re just reading for the sexy relationships then you might not mind.
In Bengal’s Heart, reporter Cassa Hawkins is being drawn into the work of a renegade Breed serial killer. The killer has sent her photographs of his crimes, crimes that the Breeds are trying to cover up. Cassa has always supported the Breeds, particularly since she feels responsible for the deaths of several, and has long been in love with the elusive Bengal, Cabal. But she can’t allow them to shut her out of this case. The repercussions for Breed-human relations are too great, and she’s plain ol’ sick of Cabal ordering her about. Besides, she has a personal connection to this case—one that could put both her and Cabal in danger.
Lora Leigh has a definite talent for mind-blowing sex and high-emotion characters, and I really enjoy some of her Breeds novels—Mercury’s War comes to mind, as does The Man Within. There are a few aspects to her writing that I enjoy less, however, and those definitely ride high in the pages of Bengal’s Heart.
While some aspects of the science-fantasy world building are better than others, I was less impressed with those focused on in this novel. The viciousness and sadism of the bad guys is over-the-top, and the number of decades that the experimentation has been going on in full force really seems hard to believe without a full-force rewriting of the world’s history with respect to tech level. It’s all so larger than life that I just can’t suspend disbelief.
Finally, the male and female leads drove me nuts. They changed their attitudes, minds, and thoughts so frequently regarding each other that within the space of a page my head would be spinning. Their spats read more like temper tantrums than arguments. A bit of personality conflict is one thing, but I wish Leigh had chosen to use more plot to draw out the relationship angst and less over-the-top arguing. I had no patience for it long before I even reached the halfway point of the book.
If you’re a die-hard fan of the series you’ll probably want to catch this one just to keep up-to-date, or simply for more of Leigh’s wild Breed sex scenes. On its own merits, however, I don’t particularly recommend this one.